Lack of titles ties Capitol’s hands

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Saturday, April 12, 2014


CEBU - The Province wants to help northern Cebu towns buy land where typhoon Yolanda’s survivors can build their homes, but a Commission on Audit (COA) rule stands in its way, the governor said.

Governor Hilario Davide III said Friday he was hoping that Panfilo Lacson, presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery, would help the Province convince COA to let it buy lands covered only by tax declarations, instead of titles.

Lacson, however, failed to attend a scheduled discussion yesterday with mayors and other representatives from the 15 northern Cebu towns and one city that suffered the most in the province when Yolanda struck last Nov. 8.

Five months after the typhoon, acquiring land for relocation sites remained one of the major problem the northern Cebu mayors shared.

Capitol Consultant Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., head of Task Force Paglig-on, said the 16 local governments have identified possible resettlement areas, but lacks funds to buy or develop these.

Yolanda roundtable
YOLANDA ON THEIR MINDS. Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III (right) and Task Force Paglig-on head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. chat during a discussion with mayors and other representatives from 15 northern Cebu towns and a city still recovering from typhoon Yolanda. (Arni Aclao/Sun.Star Cebu)


Governor Davide, in an interview, said the Province is willing to set aside funds to buy relocation sites.

During a roundtable discussion facilitated by the Task Force Paglig-on yesterday, Sta. Fe Mayor Jose Esgana said they need P5 million to buy 2.3 hectares and a portion of a seven-hectare property in Barangay Marikaban.

Esgana earlier said the town will need about P11.5 million for the site development of the 2.3-hectare lot. An additional P35 million is needed to develop the other seven-hectare resettlement area.

Legal issues in buying relocation sites also surfaced during the discussion held yesterday in the Crown Regency Hotel on Osmeña Blvd., Cebu City.

Lacson, of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR), was expected to arrive at 2 p.m. for the whole-day activity.

Lacson’s help

Around 4 p.m., an organizer announced that the former senator could no longer come.

Davide explained that what prevents the Province from buying the resettlement sites is the COA’s requirement that the land to be bought must have a title.

The governor pointed out that most of the properties in the northern towns have only tax declarations.

“Maybe we can recommend, we can ask Senator Lacson to make representations with COA,” Davide said. He pointed out that the resettlement sites need to be acquired, to heed the government’s declaration of no-build zones.

After Yolanda sent a powerful storm surge that washed away thousands of coastal homes, the government prohibited construction within 40 meters of the shore.

San Remegio Mayor Mariano Martinez, in yesterday’s forum, said his town’s officials have identified a possible site for their constituents still living within the no-build zone, but they’re having problems with buying the land.

Persuasion

Earlier, San Francisco Mayor Aly Arquillano shared the same problem. Arquillano has said the town is waiting for the financial assistance from the National Government so they can start working on the relocation site.

He hopes the town can build 215 houses on the 2.3-hectare site. Each house will have a 60-square-meter lot and a floor area of 40 sq.m.

Esgana appealed for the Provincial Government’s help in paying for the lots.

As for Camotes Island, Pilar Mayor Jesus Fernandez raised his concern on what to do with families who are unwilling to transfer to the relocation site.

Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro said his town has chosen an accessible relocation site, with an assurance that livelihood will be provided to the typhoon survivors who move there.

He said that in choosing a resettlement area, the needs of the people should be considered.

For its part, the Department of Energy (DOE) revealed there are still some typhoon-affected parts in northern Cebu that lack power as of now.

Antonio Labios, DOE Visayas director, said power has been fully restored in majority of the affected towns.

Powerless

But parts of the island towns of Sta. Fe and Bantayan still don’t have power, particularly in the islets.

In a press conference yesterday, Labios said that four out of 10 barangays in Sta. Fe still don’t have power. While in Bantayan, about five out of 25 barangays don’t have power as well.

Labios said that after inquiring with the Bantayan Island Electric Cooperative (BANELCO), the DOE was told that power could be restored in these two areas before the first week of May.

But this is just one of their worries, Labios said.
Seven islets that depend on solar power still lack power, after 467 of their solar panels were damaged during Yolanda, he said.

The island sitios that depend on solar power for electricity are Panangatan, Moamboc, Silagon, Biagayag, Panitugan, Mambacayao Gamay and Mambacayaon Dako.

Labios said that the National Government is in the process of acquiring replacement panels. One solar panel reportedly costs P32,000.

Repairs

The funds for the purchase will come from the government’s share of power generation income, which is intended for communities that host power facilities.

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Central Visayas is set to release P82.7 million for the repair of local government structures in Yolanda-affected areas.

Regional Director Ananias Villacorta said that the release of the funds is based on a program of works that officials submitted to DILG.

The program of works had to be checked thrice before these were submitted to the DILG national office.

When it swept across the Visayas five months ago, Yolanda left at least 6,293 persons dead and injured 28,689 others. At least 1,061 were still missing as of the April 3 report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The typhoon also destroyed P19.5 billion worth of infrastructure and P20.2 billion in crops and agricultural equipment.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 12, 2014.

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